Online Presentation: Forward, March!


Gymnastiska Centralinstitutet 01 1 Gymnastiska Centralinstitutet, Stockholm
Kaynak: Wikimedia
Gymnastiska Centralinstitutet, Stockholm
Source: Wikimedia
A selection of works from Maria Andersson and Nancy Atakan’s exhibition Forward, March! held at SALT Beyoğlu in 2019 can now be accessed via Google Arts & Culture. Featuring drawings, photographs, video, and textile works by Andersson and Atakan, the online presentation focuses on Turkey’s integration of Swedish physical culture practices as part of the modernization efforts in the early 20th century. The works included in the presentation revolve around narratives on Selim Sırrı Tarcan, the founder of physical education and the Olympics Committee in Turkey, and on the accomplishments of his daughters, Selma and Azade.

A graduate of Mühendishâne-i Berrî-i Hümâyun [Imperial School of Military Engineering], and an active member of the Young Turk movement that revolted to restore the constitutional monarchy during the era of Sultan Abdulhamid II, Tarcan (1874-1957) was sent abroad for a year by the governing bodies in 1909. Seeing this as an opportunity to broaden his knowledge in sports writing and teaching, he requested to be sent to Stockholm to attend the Gymnastiska Centralinstitutet [Royal Gymnastics Central Institute], established by Pehr Henrik Ling in 1813. Tarcan was particularly influenced by the Ling gymnastics, which was characterized by aesthetic, medical, military, and educational attributes. Upon his return to Istanbul, he was assigned to design a physical education system in order to support the ongoing reform endeavours. Training both male and female teachers, he aimed to restructure the social foundations by raising healthy and strong future generations. The Training Festival that Tarcan first organized in 1916 was a showcase of these methods and ideals, which were further considered required instruments in the development of the Republic of Turkey. Not only did he adopt the Swedish approach to gymnastics but also initiated a Youth Anthem in the country, by commissioning Turkish lyrics to the Swedish folk song Tre trallande jäntor [Three Carolling Girls], composed by Felix Körling.

Tarcan’s daughters, Selma (Mimaroğlu) and Azade (Kent) became pioneers in modern dance and therapeutic gymnastics respectively. Inspired by their life stories, Forward, March! explores the intertwined relationship between physical education and the emancipation of women in Turkey.